The Competition is Broadcast Television

by Peter Temple on January 4, 2011

If you’re 60 years or older, television has been part of your life for almost all of it. You may not watch that much of it, but we all have a pretty good idea of what is “good,” or “quality” television. It’s entertaining or interesting, depending upon whether you’re a prime-time slot junkie or more inclined to watch news and documentaries. We know what we like and it has to be fast-moving in order to keep our attention.

If you’re going to produce television for the corporate market, that’s the competition. In fact, that’s the competition no matter what your audience.

What do I mean by that? Well, if we watch a program, no matter its source or the environment we watch it in, we judge it based on our experience watching commercial television. We do the same thing with books. We know what we like and we’ll put it down if it doesn’t grab our attention.

The corporate audience is no different. They’re a sophisticated bunch. After all, they’re us. They’re people … and they’re intelligent people. If video isn’t well-produced, they’ll let you know. They may not tell you, but you can bet they’ll tune out as a form of protest.

That means your production must be well-written, well-lit, and the soundtrack (which is even more important than the visuals) has to be well recorded and mixed properly. The script must get to the point intelligently and to do that, it has to use sound and visuals to complement each other – to communicate with all the power that the medium brings to bear. To do this properly takes thought; it takes planning.

Novices to the world of production often start with a question like, “How much does it cost to produce a twenty minute video?” without having given any thought to the specific message or elements that have to be collected to fill that twenty minute void. That’s like asking the price of a house without specifying how big, the materials used, the design, etc.

The vast majority of programs produced for the corporate sector are under ten minutes, with an ideal time of five to seven minutes. In fact, it’s only in the area of training that we produce anything of a longer length (and they’re typically modular – each module under seven minutes, or so).

A rather disturbing trend over the past decade has been the proliferation of amateur footage shot in-house brought to a professional to be fashioned into a television program. Contrary to industry folk-lore, you cannot “fix it in the editing.” Without the upfront planning, the resulting product does not meet its intended objective and just becomes an exercise in frustration for both the client and the producer, director or editor.

The biggest challenge we all run into as professionals are the corporate scripts that read as a legal document. Would you watch a television program that made you work hard to decipher the message due to its use of unfamiliar words or stilted language that only belongs in an academic ivory tower? Not likely. Neither will your employees.

You are your audience. You must be treated with the respect that you deserve.

To create, produce and deliver a focussed, compelling, persuasive message using the most powerful medium known to mankind takes planning and a strong client/supplier working relationship (akin to a partnership). The most compelling programs begin with a written objective (that contains a description of the eventual desired effect on the audience), a script with compelling dialogue and careful attention to the role of both sound and visual elements – to create a message that is far more powerfully communicated that either medium on its own.

That is a rare achievement but when it happens, it trounces the competition.

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